Is Hong Kong a Democratic Country?

The LEGCO Building. Rory Boland

Question: Is Hong Kong a Democratic Country?

One of the most common questions asked about Hong Kong, is whether it is a democratic country. Firstly, Hong Kong isn’t a country, but a special administrative region of China – you can find out more about their unique relationship in this article on Hong Kong’s Basic Law.


Hong Kong has a type of democracy; however it doesn't have universal suffrage, a basic tenant of a democracy. Many politicians and commentators alike argue Hong Kong is undemocratic – this for the most part is a point of view, let us explain why?

Hong Kong has its own mini parliament in the form of LEGCO, short for the Legislative Council. Representatives in LEGCO , are either elected by direct election or by electoral college. Those resident in Hong Kong for more than seven years are eligible to vote in direct elections, however only 1/3 of the council is elected directly. The remaining 2/3 are elected by a 20,000 strong functional constituency, this is made up of businessmen and professionals such as doctors, lawyers, engineers etc. These groups form into broad parties formed through mutual interests, almost always business related..

The Chief Executive, currently Donald Tsang, is the head of the government and replaced the governor after the handover in 1997. The Chief Executive is answerable directly to Beijing. The Chief Executive is elected by 800 members drawn from the functional constituency, there are no direct elections. 2007, saw the election for Chief Executive ‘contested’ for the first time. However, because so many of the functional constituency parties are instructed by Beijing for whom to vote, the outcome was already known.

Nevertheless, the two men debated and campaigned, however the result was never in doubt. A very undemocratic democracy.

Hong Konger’s are very concerned about the lack of democracy, and Beijing is under huge pressure to introduce universal suffrage.